Rodan, released in Japan as Giant Monster of the Sky Radon (空の大怪獣 ラドン Sora no Daikaijū Radon?), is a 1956 tokusatsu film produced by Toho Studios. It was the studio's first daikaiju eiga filmed in color (though Toho's first color tokusatsu film, Madame White Snake, was released earlier that year). It is one of a series of "giant monster" movies that found an audience outside Japan, especially in America. The first were serious horror and adventure stories, before the genre devolved to the level of "kiddie" entertainment in the 1960s and 1970s. For a time the film was released in the U.S. under the title Rodan! The Flying Monster!.
Rodan follows in the footsteps of other Japanese monster movies, such as Godzilla, which involve a giant monster being awoken from an ancient hibernation by human beings. In Rodan, miners digging far into the earth stumble across a clutch of giant, prehistoric insects called Meganulon, which viciously attack several of the miners and prompt a government investigation into the matter in the year 1957. The giant bugs turn out to be little more than food for two gigantic flying beasts called Rodans, similar to pteranodons but far larger and more powerful, who hatch from giant eggs and proceed to terrorize the entire world.
Rodan is notable for its action scenes, which are surprisingly well-filmed and still excite audiences today. Unlike most of the Toho monster movies, which featured "action" scenes consisting of roaring monsters lumbering across the landscape at a stupefyingly slow pace, the battle scenes and monster rampage in Rodan are thrilling, exciting, and fast-paced; it is much easier for the audience to suspend disbelief and accept the low-tech special effects here. The emphasis on action and thrills, and willingness to scare the audience, has made Rodan one of the more enduring entries in daikaiju eiga.
In the original Japanese version this daikaiju is called "Radon", a truncation of "pteranodon"). While it is commonly believed that the Japanese Radon became Rodan for the international release due to a translation error, it is likely that the name was deliberately changed to avoid confusion with the chemical element radon. The name Radon is, however, preserved in the English-dubbed version of Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993).
Lobby card to the 1957 US release of Rodan The King Brothers' theatrical release of Rodan was quite successful in its first run in the United States. It was the first Japanese movie to receive general release on the West Coast to make a strong showing at the box-office.1 It later received the biggest TV advertising campaign given to a film to that date on New York's NBC flagship station WRCA-TV. 10-, 20- and 60-second commercials were shown for a week before the film's opening.2 It grossed an estimated $450,000 to $500,000 during its opening weekend at 79 theaters in the New York City metropolitan area. Several theatrical circuits, including RKO, announced that Rodan broke the records for a science-fiction film.3 George Takei, better known as Lt. Hikaru Sulu in the original Star Trek series, was one of the many voice actors employed for this film. The only other Kaiju film for which he performed voice work was Godzilla Raids Again. The main narration provided by the character of Shigeru was voiced by actor Keye Luke with additional voices provided by veteran voice actor Paul Frees.
- Many promotional stills and posters for the film depicted a Rodan that looked radically different from the one in the actual movie. Rather than the appearance of a slightly larger, more upright version of the traditional Pterodactyl, this version bore more of a resemblance to the bird-like Azhdarchidae family.
- The giant insects featured in this film, the Meganula, would later go on to appear in the 2000 film Godzilla vs. Megaguirus.
- This film marks the only time in which Rodan is seen to emit a strange burst of concentrated gas from its mouth as a form of weapon. The inclusion of this seemingly tangential ability was most likely meant to answer the popularity of Godzilla's atomic heat ray. This could also be a sonic wind similar to Anguirus's in the Atari video game franchise.
Japanese movie poster
Shigeru Kawamura (coal mine shaft engineer) - Kenji Sahara
Kiyo (coal mine shaft office worker) - Yumi Shirakawa
Dr. Kyuuichirou Kashiwagi - Akihiko Hirata
Nishimura (Police inspector) - Akio Kobori
Izeki (Seibu Journalist) - Yoshifumi Tajima
Oosaki (coal mine executive officer) - Minosuke Yamada
Ishikawa (Earthquake Research Institute engineer) - Ren Imaizumi
Earthquake Research Institute engineer - Saburou Kadowaki
Minami - Fuyuki Murakami
Journalist - Kouji Uno
Suda - Akio Kusama
Hayama - Fumindo Matsuo
Military Commander - Hideo Mihara
Professor Isokawa - Mitsuo Matsumoto
Minakami - Kiyoshi Takagi
Gorou (Miner/Kiyo's older brother) - Rinsaku Ogata
Yoshizou (miner) - Jirou Suzukawa
Tsunesan (miner) - Tateo Kawasaki
Suteyan (miner) - Kanta Kisaragi
Senkichi (miner) - Ichirou Nakaya
Tahei (miner) - Keiji Sakakida
Air Self-Defense Force commander - Hideo Mihara
Self-Defense Force signaler - Yoshio Katsube
Takeuchi (Air Self-Defense Force staff officer) - Mitsuo Tsuda
Chief constable - Ichirou Chiba
Tashiro (policeman) - Jirou Kumagai
Nurse - Saeko Kuroiwa
Female Honeymooner - Yasuko Nakata
Male Honeymooner - Kiyoharu Oonaka
Otami (Yoshizou's wife) - Kiyomi Ichinoya
Radon - Haruo Nakajima,Katsumi Tezuka
Meganuron - Haruo Nakajima (top), Katsumi Tezuka/Others (body)